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Vital People: Transition to adulthood a challenge for youth in care

The Youth Self Sufficiency program offers support for youth in need as they transition into adulthood.
Leann Finlay at the Burnside Gorge Community Centre.

The Youth Self Sufficiency program offers support for youth in need as they transition into adulthood.

The program offers one-on-one mentoring for youth aged 17 to 19 who are in foster care, on Youth Agreements (an agreement between the Ministry and Family Development and the youth), or those still at home without support.

The program, offered by the Burnside Gorge Community Association, offers programming in housing, employment, education, relationship and trust building, life skills, identity and emotional well-being.

“Each youth’s needs are different. Some need help setting up a budget and financial literacy, others want to know how they can go back to complete their high school education,” said Leann Finlay, program manager, integrated family services at the association. “We help them gain independence and set goals.”

Staff work with youth for up to three years with the consistent support of an adviser as they gain independence and learn valuable life skills.

The program serves up to 50 youth a year.

“We don’t see them on a regular basis. They come in when they need to gain a skill, and we may not see them again for a few months. Then they re-engage and we may see them a lot for a short period of time,” said Finlay. “Other times, like most youth today, they will just text us to let us know what’s going on with them.”

She says that the program works hand-in-hand with other professionals to match the youth with appropriate agencies and to connect them with the rest of the community.

The program also includes an outreach component for youth who are unable to participate due to mental health or other barriers.

The Burnside Gorge Community Association works with Threshold Housing to offer a six-week Rent Smart training program — to teach the youth the rights and responsibilities as renters.

The goal is to reach the youth before they hit rock bottom in their lives and become homeless and street entrenched.

“There is a big gap for services for youth as they age out. Our program is there for them during this transition period.”

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